Forming Irregular Spanish Past Participles Correctly

Some Verbs Have More Than One Participle Form

Man Running along boardwalk, Strait Natural Park, Tarifa, Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain
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Past participles in Spanish are usually formed by changing the ending of -ar verbs to -ado and the ending of -er and -ir verbs to -ido. But there are dozens of exceptions, known as irregular past participles.

Past participles are a type of verb form that is used to form the perfect tenses, and in Spanish (less often in English) they are frequently used as adjectives. An example of a past participle in English is "eaten." It is used to form the perfect tenses "has eaten" and "have eaten." The Spanish equivalent is comido, used to form perfect tenses such as in he comido and había comido. We could also use these words also as adjectives, as in "the eaten apple" or la manzana comida. Note that when a past participle is used as an adjective in Spanish, it changes in number and gender with the noun it refers to.

List of Common Irregular Past Participles in Spanish

Here are some of Spanish's common irregular past participles. Note how they don't end in -ado or -ido.

Past Participle Spanish Verb English Translation
abierto abrir opened
absuelto absolver absolved
cubierto cubrir covered
dicho decir said, told
escrito escribir written
frito freír fried
hecho hacer made, done
impreso imprimir printed
muerto morir died, dead
puesto poner put
preso prender catch, lit, turned on
resuelto resolver resolved
roto romper broken
satisfecho satisfacer satisfied
visto ver seen
vuelto volver returned

Compound Irregular Past Participles

Some verbs, also known as compound verbs, can be derived from base verbs by adding a prefix. When a verb is irregular, compound verbs derived from it are irregular in the same ways. So, since the past participle of escribir (to write) is escrito (written), the past participles of describir (describe), inscribir (inscribe), and describir (to describe), and transcribir (to transcribe) are, respectively, descrito (described), inscrito (inscribed), descrito (described), and transcrito (transcribed).

Here are some common irregular past participles from compound verbs:

Past Participle Prefix Spanish Base Verb English Translation
revuelto re- volver scrambled
devuelto de- volver returned
desenvuelto desen- volver unwrapped
deshecho des- hacer undone
contrahecho contra- hacer counterfeited
rehecho re- hacer restored, remade
dispuesto dis- poner organized
pospuesto pos- poner postponed

Verbs With More Than One Past Participle Form

Some verbs have more than one past participle. These forms vary by Spanish-speaking region, and in some cases, the past participle being used depends on whether it accompanies an auxiliary verb or an adjective to modify a noun. Otherwise, the forms usually can be used interchangeably.

Past Participles Spanish Verb English Translation
absorbido, absorto absorber absorbed
bendecido, bendito bendecir blessed
confesado, confeso confesar confessed
convencido, convicto convencer convinced
corrompido, corrupto corromper spoiled, corrupted
descrito, descripto describir described
despertado, despierto despertar awakened
dividido, diviso dividir divided, split
elegido, electo elegir elected
maldecido, maldito maldecir to curse
poseído, poseso poseer possessed, owned
prendido, preso prender fastened
prescrito, prescripto prescribir prescribed
presumido, presunto presumir presumed
proveído, provisto proveer provideed
soltado, suelto soltar releaseed
suspendido, suspenso suspender hung, suspended

Sample Sentences Using Irregular Past Participles

El restaurante estaba cerrado y no pudimos entrar. (The restaurant was closed and we could not enter.)

El hombre acusado de presunto asesinato fue detenido. (The man accused in the presumed murder was arrested.)

Cuando la chica llegó a la casa y vio los regalos desenvueltos, se enojó. (When the girl arrived at the house and saw the unwrapped presents, she got angry.)

He visto la belleza y atracción de Cuzco. (I have seen the beauty and attraction of Cuzco.)

En términos médicos, la obesidad es descrita como un exceso de grasa corporal perjudicial para la salud. (In medical terms, obesity is described as an excess of body fat damaging to health.)

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Erichsen, Gerald. "Forming Irregular Spanish Past Participles Correctly." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Erichsen, Gerald. (2020, August 27). Forming Irregular Spanish Past Participles Correctly. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Forming Irregular Spanish Past Participles Correctly." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).